Spinal manipulation is a hands on treatment performed by health care providers (chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, naturopathic physicians, physical therapists, and some medical doctors) in which a specific controlled force is applied to body tissues with therapeutic intent. The purpose of manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force to spinal joints that have become hypomobile (restricted joint movement) as a result of a tissue injury.
Tissue injury to the lumbar spine can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function. Manipulation of the affected joints and tissue, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing tissues to heal.
The effects of spinal manipulation have been shown to include: temporary relief of musculoskeletal pain, increased range of joint motion, changes in facet joint (low back joint) kinematics, improved pain tolerance and increased muscle strength.
Spinal manipulation may also affect the nervous system. In a research study in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology (2012), demonstrated that spinal joints that are restricted or not moving well creates altered input to the brain (maladaptive neural plastic change) that may be related to low back pain and altered function. Following spinal manipulation these maladaptive neurologic changes were normalized improving pain and function.
Spinal manipulation is a safe treatment option for low-back pain when performed by a trained and licensed practitioner. Spinal manipulation when combined with exercise, soft tissue massage, and physical therapy has shown to provide the best relief for low-back pain.
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